Will Save the Galaxy for Food: My Thoughts

Yahtzee Croshaw.  Now there’s a mouthful of a name if I ever heard one.  Croshaw is well known for several things: a couple other books I haven’t gotten to yet, a series of adventure games made with one of those Game Maker esque programs I’ve really been meaning to pick up, and perhaps the thing that sealed the deal and made me a fan for good, his game review series.

Zero Punctuation has become one of my favorite things to watch on YouTube lately.  Considering Youtube is on the verge of censoring itself into oblivion (apparently), it probably won’t be there much longer, but for now, I’m enjoying the trip.  Admittedly, if you don’t like the color yellow, you’re probably not going to like this show.  There’s a lot of yellow in the background.  But even if that’s a turn off, I’ve found looking away from the screen and focusing primarily on the audio works just as well.  I’m not a very vision-oriented person, though, so maybe that’s just me.  And maybe you like yellow, which in that case, go ahead and look at the screen.  Look to your heart’s content!

Semi-related note: did you know there’s an honest to god phobia of the color yellow?  I forget what it’s called, and I’m not exactly in any hurry to Google it, but yeah, that’s a thing.  Go figure.

While marathoning some Zero Punctuation one night, I saw at the end of one of his videos that he’d apparently written a book.  At the time, I didn’t know he was an author with two other books in the can prior to this one, so you’ll forgive me if I’m going in reverse order.  It’s like the Star Wars trilogy all over again.  The good one.  Not the prequel one, or the J.J. one we’re working on right now.

Fortunately, the books are unrelated.  Say for maybe a reference to his book, Jam, I read through Will Save the Galaxy for Food, and didn’t feel like I had to backtrack.  True, I’m GOING TO backtrack, but it’s because I want to, not because I have to.

I love these kind of space epics.  The Expanse is fun if you want hardcore science fiction in the real world…  Or about as close to the real world as you can possibly get.  However, I’ve always found my favorite scifi was the kind of scifi that threw up its hands and said “fuck it”.  Is there such a planet as the one he takes people on a tour of in chapter 1?  Fuck if I know.  We did discover a whole other solar system a couple months ago with three planets that could hypothetically support life and all, but man, I don’t fucking care.  We’re never going to see those planets.  Between the fact that, last I checked, a science-denying hypocrite by the name of Ted Cruz has a pretty high-ranking position in NASA, and the fact it takes literally for fucking ever to get there with the technology we have, it’s not happening in MY lifetime for sure.  So just give me a fucking fantasy to hold on to.

The book gives me flashbacks to the various Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series, what with its mostly well-flushed-out environments, great characters (even the obnoxious one-percenter teenager and his pink-haired girlfriend have their charm), and dry British humor.  Although instead of a nifty device that was a laptop in the 1970s, a cell phone in 2001, and god only knows what it’ll be if they ever give us another Hitchhiker’s Guide thing in the present day, we have the captain of the S.S. God of Whalesharks.

The audio book is read by the author himself, Yahtzee Croshaw.  I have to admit, it’s weird hearing him read in a slow, reserved sort of way.  I guess I’m too used to his million miles a second ramblefest style from Zero Punctuation.  All the same, I love his performance.  No two characters sound exactly the same, and I imagine the captain himself with Croshaw’s normal voice.

It’s a fascinating read, and I highly recommend it.  Now if you’ll excuse me, I have two other books to get caught up on.

 

Book 3 Under Way!

Technically, I began work on book 3 of The Gael Saga yesterday, but I’m only just now getting around to announcing it here on the blog.  Never the less, here’s some details to keep in mind.

Book 3’s current working title is The Hood and The Heroine.  On one hand, don’t expect that title to stick.  On the other hand, don’t be surprised if, despite my recommendation, the title ends up sticking.

I have a bit of a habit of coming up with a working title, looking over my completed manuscript, and deciding that in the end, the working title is good enough to stay.  Lifers Wear Orange was originally a placeholder title till I came up with something better.  I was reluctant to keep the title at first, because it sounded too much like Orange is the New Black: a pretty good autobiographical book about what it was like to spend a year in a women’s prison that eventually got adapted into a Netflix show I gave up on the very moment I saw the “I miss the misery” angle coming down the hall.  After some time, though, it ended up sticking.

Some of the titles I have for book 3 are as follows:

 

A. The Hood and the Heroine.

B. The Diamond Club.

C. The Gael Army.

D. Diamond is Forever.

E. The War of Five Kings.

 

SPOILER: The Diamond Club is a new faction that’ll be making its debut in book 3 of The Gael Saga .  The Gael Army was introduced in book 2, but will ultimately play more of a role in book 3.  Apparently, here in the notepad in my head, Diamond is Forever is a sort of catchphrase the leader of The Diamond Club has for herself, but I’ve already dismissed this as a title.  Frankly, I’m thinking of not using that, period.

Naming the book after either The Diamond Club, or The Gael Army seems like the wrong way to go.  I like The Hood and the Heroine thus far, because a large portion of the book deals with the interactions/fights between Gael and The Blue Hood.  Also, while The War of Five Kings is based on a quote Dan Adelson makes in his first chapter, I have a feeling George R. R. Martin is probably going to sue me over it.  Though none of HIS books are called that, that’s ultimately what the war throughout A Song of Ice and Fire is called.  I don’t know, maybe I’m thinking too hard about all that.  I’ve only got about a chapter and a half down as of this blog post, so it’s possible I won’t use ANY of these titles.

I look forward to getting this book done with.  I was originally planning on ending this series on book 3…  Although at the time I’m writing this, I’m really liking the concepts going into The Diamond Club.  If I end up deciding on a book 4, try not to be too surprised.  Don’t count on it, but don’t be too surprised.

That’s all the news I really have for now.  Stay tuned for more TJB flavored goodness!

After months of writing, proofreading, waiting for cover art, getting distracted by Darkest` Dungeon, and still more proofreading, Book 2 of The Gael Saga (formerly known simply as Gael) is now available!

Roisin O’Malley: the masked vigilante known by many as Gael, has been arrested, and sentenced to life in prison without parole.  Dan Adelson, the criminal kingpin the media has since dubbed “The Teal Tyrant”, has SOMEHOW been cleared of all charges, and finds himself engaged in corporate warfare with the man who’d be his successor.  The police force, now reduced to a third of their original manpower thanks to Adelson’s previous efforts, find themselves barely capable of contending with an ever increasing crime rate, as well as a group of copycat vigilantes calling themselves The Gael Army.  And as if all of this weren’t bad enough, a masked killer has emerged, leaving a trail of dead bikers, gangsters, and even corporate assassins in his wake.  What will become of Sapphire City now that all out bedlam has broken out?  And what will happen to Roisin, now that she must spend the rest of her life in a cage with her arch enemy?

The Gael Saga has been one of my favorite things to write lately, and I’m really happy this one is FINALLY available for purchase.  Admittedly, this one didn’t come spilling out onto the page quite like book 1 did, but I’m still very proud of how this one turned out.

Fair warning: this book, like many in a series, operates under the assumption you’ve read book 1 first.  I’m not saying you’ll be lost, or confused, or anything if you decide to start here…  Although I do seem to be thinking it pretty loudly.  It seems idiotic that I have to say this out loud, but if my mom has proven anything, it’s that people have an uncanny habit of picking up a series right in the middle on the assumption you can start anywhere.  Believe me, the days of episodic tales are long over.  That’s just the way it is.

You can get your copies right here.

 

 

 

Christmas Present: Lifers Wear Orange Sample Chapter!

As the old song goes: “If I ain’t drunk, it ain’t Christmas.”  I guess it’s Christmas, because despite how much Baha’i god hates it, I got liquored up on Pie Hole (pecan pie flavored whiskey), and had me a merry-ass Christober.  Or whatever.  Yeah, I’m still wobbly, and my back aches just like it did in July.  Strangely, not as badly as it did in July.

After hanging out with my family, and playing a drunken game of Exploding Kittens with everybody (BTW, I highly recommend that game), I’m back, I’m at a bit of a roadblock in Darkest Dungeon (more to come on that), and The Chiefs don’t play for another hour or so, so I figured now would be the perfect time to give you little imps your Christmas present.

The wrapping paper comes off, and to your amazement/disappointment/perplexity, it’s the official sample chapter for Lifers Wear Orange!  ENJOY!

NOTE: Lifers Wear Orange’s speculated release date is some time in late January, or early February.  More on that as it gets to me.  I might also note that this version of the chapter is the second draft.  If there are any noticeable spelling errors or what not, try to keep in mind this is still being proofread.

 

 

 

LIFERS WEAR ORANGE: BOOK 2 OF GAEL

 

COPYRIGHT 2016 THOMAS J. BLACK

 

4: ROISIN

 

I arrived at Camelbrook penatentury the day after my trial. It was a step up from the county jail. At least, up until I got past the front offices. Once I was escorted into the prison proper… Well… It’s honestly very amazing how one side of the building can look so nice, and the rest of the building look like hell on Earth. And Earthcrafters don’t even believe in hell.

The floors were filthy, say for a fresh white line of paint that separated various bits of the facility from other parts. The guard, a large man with a bleach blonde mullet, handlebar moustache, and biceps the size of bowling balls, immediately assured me I wouldn’t have to worry about that line.

“That line only applies to inmates assigned to tempblock,” he told me. “You’re going into liferblock.”

He took me to an empty room, and handed me over to another guard. This one wasn’t nearly as tall, but she was just as bored with her job as Muscle Man over there was. She looked over her clipboard, then looked directly at me.

“Ro-ee-sin O’Malley?” she said, not sure how to pronounce my name.

“ROW-SHEEN,” I corrected, trying really hard to hide my annoyance at that point.

“Whatever,” she replied, apathetically. “Take it off.”

As I stripped, I could hear the sound of a rubber glove being pulled on. Her gloved hand searched my body from neck to arse, she asking me to “squat and cough” somewhere toward the end of it. When she was finally convinced I wasn’t smuggling anything in, she pulled off the glove, and threw it in the trash.

“You’re clean,” she said, apathetic as before. She walked over to a table, and pulled out a bundle of orange clothes. “Put these on.”

I did as I was told. Included in the bundle of clothing was a white sports bra, an orange sweater, orange sweatpants, and a white pair of panties so bulky that they could’ve easily been Y-fronts. The orange clothes smelled like they’d just come from the laundry, but somehow managed to look dirty despite it. She then handed me a pair of gray socks, then a pair of black crocks.

Campbell will escort you next door for your prison ID,” she explained, as bored as anything else. “Make any stupid faces, and it’ll count as a strike.”

Campbell, the man I’d called “muscle man” in my head, came into the room, and escorted me into the next place I needed to be. I stood in front of a blue wall, and a black man who had to be in his seventies at absolute youngest snapped my picture with some contraption attached to his computer. A few minutes later, I was handed a warm laminated card with my picture, my name (the accent mark over the second I in ROISIN missing), and the number 70259 printed underneath it.

“Orientation is down the hall,” the elderly man told me. “Campbell will escort you there.”

Campbell took me out of the room, and escorted me down the hall. As we walked, I couldn’t help but notice a chubby little brunette mopping the floor up ahead. I guessed she was one of the inmates at first, considering she was wearing a jumpsuit with a number on the front and back. Strangely, though, her jumpsuit was powder blue.

“Stay in bounce, inmate,” Campbell warned.

“I’m on janitorial,” she replied.

“All the same,” said Campbell.

He must’ve noticed the look I was giving the inmate then, because I didn’t even have time to ask the question. “She’s a temp,” he explained. “Temps wear blue.   Lifers wear orange.”

“Ooph, a lifer,” said the inmate. “I do not envy you. No sir, I do not…”

“That’s enough, inmate,” said Campbell, a hint of warning in his tone.

He walked me past her, and eventually, after a couple turns this way and that, we arrived in what appeared to be an office. There was definitely a desk, a couple filing cabinets, a phone, a walky-talky, and a couple chairs. Behind the desk sat a man who looked like he was expecting me.

This new man was a black fella with a bald head, and a tan suit with a black tie. He was about the same height I was, but a lot pudgier. His face was clean shaven, but his suit looked like it could use a wash.

“Ah, Ms. O’Malley, I presume,” he greeted. His voice had a very thick Jamaican accent. Not what I was expecting, in all honesty. “Welcome to your new home. My name is Jeremy Young, and I will be the one looking after you from now on.”

“Uh… Okay,” was all I could say.

“Normally,” he continued, “we hold orientation in the movie room, but since you’re the only new inmate we’ve had in three months, I might as well just tell you everything you need to know here. Saves me a trip.”

He picked up a couple papers from his desk, and began to read their contents out loud.

“You are here because you’ve broken the law,” he said, mechanically and hurredly. “You are now, and until the end of your sentence, state property. You will do everything the guards tell you to do. Failure to comply will result in a strike. Three strikes will result in you spending any amount of time we see fit in solitary. Depending on the severity of your offense, you might not even receive strikes prior to confinement in solitary. Consecutive solitary confinements, or the severity of the offense that results in said solitary confinements will result in you being transferred to a medium, maximum, or even a supermaximum security facility if necessary. Good behavior, meanwhile, will result in privileges ranging from longer phone calls, specialty items, and any other privileges we deem worthy of your behavior. You will be sharing living space with many other women. Yes, some of them are lesbians. No, you will not be forced into having lesbian sex with any of…”

He paused then, looking over his paperwork. It was then that I realized he actually wasn’t reading from a paper, but reciting this whole routine from memory! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little impressed, although I immediately figured it was because he’d done this so many times before I came here. I wasn’t sure what was on his paperwork until he spoke up again.

“Oh dear,” he said. “You appear to be rooming with her.”

“Who’s her?” I asked.

“You’ll meet her soon enough,” he told me. “We’ll be checking her for forks or knives, but you may want to be on your best behavior around her just in case we missed something. She’s been a bit of a problem case.”

That really didn’t fill me with a lot of confidence. He was in no hurry to tell me everything would be fine, either. Probably because he wasn’t obligated. Or maybe because it really wasn’t. Either way, he finished his speech, and before I knew it, we were on the move once again.

I was taken down a flight of stairs. There, I saw cell after cell along both walls. Most cells had two women in them, but occasionally, I’d see a cell with only one woman in it. I kept thinking for sure I was going to get crammed in there with the enormous black woman. Or maybe I’d end up with the Indian woman with the weird tattoo on her forehead (it wasn’t your usual red dot mark you usually see on Hindu women’s foreheads). Or maybe even the woman with the shoulder sling. It turned out neither of them were going to be my cellmate.

He took me down to the very end of the hall. Another guard, an equally large man with a black buzzcut, took one look at me, and reached into his pocket. He pulled out a massive ring of keys, and after a moment or two of looking through them all, he found the one he was looking for, used it to unlock the barred door, and pulled the cell door aside.

Campbell moved me forward… And that’s when I saw who I’d be rooming with for the rest of my life. My eyes locked on to hers as she just sat there on the bottom bunk. She didn’t seem to recognize me right away, but I recognized her immediately. A horrified gasp escaped me as I backed up a step.

“Meet your new roomy,” said Campbell, oblivious… Or more likely, uninterested in my state of shock.

“Try not to stab this one, Mahoney,” said the other guard.

Campbell nudged me forward. Left with no options, I did as he instructed, and went into the cell. The other guard slammed the door, locked the lock, and went on his way. Campbell, meanwhile, peaked in through the bars.

“Dinner’s at eighteen-hundred hours,” he told me. “In the meantime, I suggest you two get to know each other a little better.”

I didn’t have to get acquainted with her a little better: we’d already met a couple weeks ago back at Ron Swanson National Park. I wasn’t sure what her real name was, although I remembered that other guard called her Mahoney. But I knew what she went by. And now, I was locked in a cell with her. Badb: the woman who tried to kill me in my Gael persona. Badb: the woman who tried to hit on me while I was in my Gael persona. Badb: the woman who stabbed me in the arse in my Gael persona. Oh yeah, we were acquainted.

Or that’s what I thought, anyway. She was still looking me over when the guard left, but after a couple moments of incredibly uncomfortable silence, she went back to staring at her shoes.

“Hi,” I greeted anxiously.

“Hey,” she replied, apathetically.

I slowly, cautiously took a seat next to her on the bottom bunk. Seeing how she was way more interested in her feet than me, I took in the scenery. Or lack there of. The floor of the cell was the same greenish-gray as the rest of the prison, and the walls were the same dull grayish color. The only things in our cell were the bunk bed we were sitting on, and a toilet off in the corner. A week ago, that probably would’ve revolted me, but now, having been left with no alternative to watching four other women take turns on the bog, it wasn’t so shocking. At least this one had paper.

“So,” said Badb. Or I guess she was Mahoney now. “What’s your name?”

I cleared my throat. “Roisin,” I said.

There was a moment of silence between us as I feared that’d be what she needed to put two and two together. Once again, she didn’t seem to figure anything out.

“Roisin what?” she asked.

“Roison O’Malley,” I answered.

Again I feared, and again, she didn’t figure it out.

“Barbara Mahoney,” she said. “Call me Mahoney. Girls who don’t have nicknames around here generally go by last names. From what I’ve observed, they only go by first names if they both have the same last name, and nothing about them deserves a nickname.”

“Oh. Okay. So… I should go by O’Malley then?”

“Pff, with an accent like that, you’re probably going to end up with something Irish as a nickname. Or maybe just Irish.”

There was more silence between us. Then…

“Okay, let’s get this much straight,” said Mahoney, immediately shifting from bored to authoritative. “I get the top bunk, you get the bottom. You keep your back to me when I’m on the shitter. When we’re out in the cafeteria, or in the showers, or the recreation room, you stay near me at all times.”

“Do I need to put my finger in your belt loop?” I asked.

“Nah, nothing like that. Unless you really want to.” She shot me a sly grin that disappeared as quickly as it arrived. “Good news is you don’t have to worry about dropping the soap around here. First off, because they give us body wash. Second, because women usually aren’t like that. You aren’t interested, they’ll take the hint. Eventually.”

“Um, okay. What’s the bad news, then?”

“Other than a few of these women are really persuasive on top of being lonely, horny, and decided to be gay for the stay? Not much. Either way, if one of them decides not to take the hint, you tell me, and I’ll make sure they get the hint. Trust me, they’ll take the hint then. The two or three who won’t got stuffed in the box yesterday, and word has it they aren’t coming back, so…”

“The box?”

“Solitary. You get three strikes, and…”

“Oh, okay, I know what that is. The Jamaican guy explained that part.”

“Oh. Right. Well anyway, the point of all this is if you don’t want to get into a fight, or you don’t want someone trying to flirt with you, you stick with me, got it?”

“Got it.”

She didn’t say anything for a while. This seemed to be the pattern we’d established: long silences, and short question and answer sessions in between.

“So,” I asked, carefully, “What are you in for?”

Babs snorted. “Where do I start?” she replied. “Well, I guess trying to stab someone to death a couple weeks ago was what got me here. Really, though, this isn’t even my first time in prison. But it’ll definitely be the last.”

“What got you here the first time?”

“I wasn’t here the first time I went to prison. Technically, I’d gone to juvi the first time. Spent most of my high school years in juvi.”

“Oh. Uh, for what?”

She shot me a dirty look then. “Never you mind.”

“Well… Uh… I mean, we’re going to be here for life, and…”

“And how is knowing what I went to juvi for going to benefit you?”

I didn’t answer.

“Exactly. Never mind how we got here, because you’re here, and you’re never getting out.” She stood up then, and jumped up to the top bunk. “I’m taking a nap. A little hint: nap frequently. It helps pass the time when you’re in the cell.”

I didn’t say anything. What would be the point? Mahoney was pretty sure that was the end of the conversation, and there was no changing her mind.

I flopped down on my own bed underneath hers, and tried to take her advice. I don’t know if it was nerves, or just not being all that shattered, but I just couldn’t go to sleep. I was very thankful she didn’t realize Roisin O’Malley and Gael were the same person, but I had a feeling there was a lot more to worry about in here than that. I was not looking forward to my time here, but it could’ve been worse. It could’ve been all in vein.

 

 

 

 

 

Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits: My Thoughts

I love David Wong.  Admittedly, I wasn’t around for PWOT, and I don’t really follow Cracked all that much (I’m also guessing WISECRACKED is a completely different entity), but his books have entertained me over the many…  Four years.  I found out he existed around the time his second book, This Book is Full of Spiders, was new.  I ended up enjoying the shit out of it, and even picked up the legendary John Dies at the End right after I finished that one.

Apparently, I was significantly late to the party when it comes to his third book, but hey, the important thing is I got to it.  Eventually.  A year later.  STOP LOOKING AT ME LIKE THAT!

Unlike his previous novels, Futuristic Violence and Fancy Suits doesn’t follow the demon hunting shinanigans of David and John.  Instead, it follows the story of Zoey: trailer trash turned millionaire.  And for the record, my spellchecker is thoroughly bitching me out over the spelling of the name ZOEY, but according to the page on Audible.com, I’m spelling it right.  So fuck you, spellchecker.  ALWAYS NAY-SAYING!  Dick.

The audio book is read by Christy Romano, and she is absolutely perfect.  She’s got a wide range of voices, her reading style never gets tedious, and her timing is on the mark.  I enjoyed this performance very much.  Which is good, because this book is a wee bit tedious in spots.So…  Stop me if you’ve heard this premise before, but a fat girl from the trailer park suddenly becomes an ultra-billionaire upon her father’s passing, and inherits a mansion the size of a small town.  She also finds herself in a town where there are no laws, no regulations, and no cops.  A libertarian dream come true…  Right up until you get to the part where everybody’s AWARE of the fact there’s no rules and regulations, and ultimately turn the city into a personal playground for killers, a safe haven for every illegal substance on the planet, and the battleground between the team of Zoey and “The Fancy Suits”, and one of the most psychotic people I’ve seen in fiction in quite a while.  I’ve literally seen Dragon Ball Z villains with more subtlety to them than the villain of this book…  But I guess when you don’t have to hide in the shadows, and your entire self worth is based on how many Twitter followers…  Excuse me, BLINKER followers you have, there’s probably no point in being subtle, is there?

I’ll give Wong this much: the world he’s built is fascinating.  There’s plenty of detail that has me thinking someone’s on the verge of writing a wiki.  Hell, if there’s more than one book in the series, that just might happen.  They made a wiki for Punch Out of all things, so why not?

While I know it’s played up for laughs, I actually don’t have a difficult time believing people would sooner switch on their blinker cameras on their glasses and stream a murder happening right in front of them in the name of subscribers than…  You know, actually helping the victim?  Or even running away in terror, for that matter.  The idea of a futuristic anarchy zone like Tabula Ra$a (I’m guessing on that spelling based on the few hints the audio book has given me) reminds me of similar settings I’ve encountered over the years.  It’s like a more futuristic Nightside, or a less demonic Midian.  But while the core concept sounds has a bit of a “SIMPSONS DID IT!” vibe to it, The city as a whole is original enough to where you don’t even think about it when you’re reading it.

If I have one problem with the book, it’s how Wong milks the suspense for everything it’s worth.  I go into this book knowing full well Zoey’s not a fighter.  She has no cybernetic parts like the villains, she has no martial arts training…  Hell, her only real skill is that she gives really good “massages”.  I went in knowing she was going to get taken hostage at least once.  I’m also aware the villain of the book is a bit of a drama queen, as is everyone in this universe.  I just wish the attempt at building suspense and tention didn’t go on FOR FUCKING EVER!

Look, I can appreciate good banter between hero and villain.  A villainous monologue can be pretty epic, and the hero’s moment of pure helplessness can be pretty intense when done right.  But man, I wish the punchline would hurry up and get here.  It’s one thing to know in your heart of hearts that the bad guys aren’t going to succeed in burying someone alive, and it’s another thing for it to drag on, and on, and on, and on.  All the while, you already know the punchline is coming, which ultimately kills the attempt at suspense dead.  Admittedly, I didn’t see the EXACT punchline coming, but I knew something was going to come along and save the day.

And it wouldn’t be an especially big problem if it didn’t happen over and over and over again.  By the time it got to the final battle, I felt absolutely no sense of urgency.  Hell, despite Romano’s performance, I actually wanted to hit fast forward just to get to the god damn punchline already!

The book is a whopping seventy chapters long, but much like Nax Barry’s Jennifer Government, it becomes significantly less intimidating when you realize the chapters are ridiculously short.  Half the time, chapters end in the middle of conversations, and the next chapter picks up right where the conversation left off!  I wouldn’t say it’s annoying, but it does make me wonder out loud why the author went that route.

These complaints aside, I actually enjoyed this story.  Admittedly, not as much as the David and John stories, but if Wong writes a sequel to this novel, I might consider giving it a read.

Gael Has Arrived!

gael2

 

By day, she’s Roisin O’Malley: housekeeper, College drop out, and failed Olympic gymnast.  By night, though, she dawns the mask, and becomes Gael: vigilante, and Sapphire City’s most famous woman.  As Gael, she has one mission: to dismantle the criminal empire that ruined her chances at competing in The Olympic Games, killed her best friend, and had her gymnastics coach assassinated.  Dan Adelson: billionaire tycoon, and criminal kingpin extraordinare, won’t go down easily.  Furthermore, the police seem a lot more interested in arresting Gael than they are in arresting any actual criminals for some reason.  Will her mission succeed, or has she vaulted into disaster?

This book is currently available in Ebook format.  I was hoping to have the Ebook and paperback available at the same time, but there has been some…  Complications.  I really fucking hate Createspace’s cover system.  The paperback version’s probably not going to be as pretty, but at least this time I have a picture.

If you want the paperback, you might have to wait a couple days to sort it out.  In the meantime, you can pick up the Ebook at this link right here.

https://www.amazon.com/Gael-Thomas-J-Black-ebook/dp/B01LYV1PD5/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1474333241&sr=1-1&keywords=Gael+Thomas+J.+Black

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.  And I’m not saying that to be corny or whatever: I really did enjoy writing this book.  I don’t know if it’s the shift from backward dark to fun superhero story with maybe just a pinch of raunch, or if life in general has been looking up lately, but man, I really did enjoy this project.  I’m already plotting out the sequel as we speak!

Pick up your copy of Gael today, and see if it’s worthy of the hype.

The Dinosaur Lords: My Thoughts

A year or two ago, I heard of a book in progress by the name of The Dinosaur Lords.  I legitimately can’t remember the last time I got excited for a book based on literally nothing but the title before that day, but I was definitely interested.  An epic swords and sorcery adventure with knights riding on dinosaurs?  SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!  This is literally the kind of nonsense you’re REQUIRED to read as a member of the male gender.  Remember that, F2Ms, there will be a test.

In the end…  I suppose it was my own damn fault for getting as excited as I did.  I think I may’ve set the bar a little too high on this one.  If I didn’t do it, the author certainly did.

I’ve grown to love the fantasy genre in my adulthood.  As a child, I really preferred scifi.  As a teenager, I preferred horror, and even considered the fantasy genre to be “nothing but a bunch of gay-ass hobbit crap full of elves and trolls.”  Try not to judge me too harshly: the words GAY and RETARDED had a nasty habit of meaning the same thing in the early 2000s.  But in adulthood, fantasy is actually pretty appealing.  Probably because the future ended up sucking ass.  Still waiting for my robot butler and awesome flying car, you know.  Fucking big oil.

Still, even as a guy who’s a lot more willing to shut his brain off and enjoy an idiotic sequence of battles between wizards and ogres or whatever, The Dinosaur Lords was a monumental disappointment to me.  And it’s not entirely hard to see why, either.

There are definitely dinosaur knight battles, but seems like they’re a little too far and few between.  Obviously, you have to have a story, or else it comes off as a montage of battles rather than a fantasy novel.  Still, I found all the attempts at political intrigue more boring than anything else.  It was a miracle I could keep half of these characters straight!

I honestly found Rob and the voivod more interesting than Melodia and the royal family.  I also found myself wishing the book would just pick one and stick with it.  Even if it went the boring route and picked the royal family, at least it committed.  The book will often shift perspective from the royals to Rob and the Voivod and back in one chapter.  Maybe it’s just how I write anymore, or maybe it’s just the kind of authors I read anymore, but it seems like a much better idea to build the chapter around one set of characters.  I suppose you COULD build the story around both sets, but it’d probably work a lot better if you just let Rob and the voivod have their own chapter, then have the royal family sort out shit in another chapter.

Each chapter begins with a passage from “The Book of True Names”, which is just a fancy name for an encyclopedia of dinosaurs.  And I guess that’s kind of cool…  Except sometimes, the dinosaur they talk about has nothing to do with the chapter about to unfold.  Or maybe I need to pay more attention.  Seriously, I was so fucking bored listening to this audiobook, it wasn’t even funny.  When they run out of dinosaurs, though, they give you a primer on the religion of the universe.  It’s honestly not as fascinating as it ought to be.

The audiobook is read by Noah Michael Levine.  Frankly, the way he goes about it, the Talkback app on my fucking Galaxy S5 would’ve made for a less mechanical reader.  My god, this guy is boring!  The dude reads the book with absolutely zero enthusiasm.  I imagine as a reader of audiobooks, you tend to get some that you normally aren’t a fan of, but god damn, bro!  The character dialogue is probably the only time NML shows any hint of personality.  I can forgive a reader for being a man of two or three voices, but I just felt like this guy could’ve been doing literally anything else but reading this book right now.

There’s at least one other book in the series as of this writing, but after this experience, I’m thinking of calling it good here.  I have no interest in pursuing this story past chapter 32.  Frankly, I thought about picking up where I left off in the fucking Demon Accord after this.  Yeah, The Demon Accord is basically gender-swopped Twilight at the point I left off, but at least the reader of THOSE books has some god damn personality.

Armada: My Thoughts

When I read Ready Player One, I was hooked.  I absolutely had to see what else Ernest Cline had written.  Audible.com did list another book by the name of Armada, and I figured “Hey, why not?  Ready Player One was pretty good.”

It’s kind of funny, really.  I went into Ready Player One almost WANTING to hate it.  It had everything that didn’t appeal to me: virtual world setting, 80s pop culture everywhere, a protagonist still in high school…  All it needed was a mopy emo vampire chick, and it would’ve been perfect.  And Art3mis came pretty close.  I wanted to hate this book…  But I ended up loving it.  I couldn’t put it down!  I wanted to know what happened next!  I was even kind of bummed out when it was over with.

Then I picked up Armada, really wanting to like it.  And…  Really, it ended up being more of the same.

It ended up being one of those scenarios where you somehow had a completely different book that told the exact same story.  Or at least one that was dangerously similar to it.  Cline only has two books (that I know of), and they read exactly the same.  Nothing wrong with familiarity, but when you’re having to depend on your own tropes this early (In Cline’s case, an obsessive dependence on old pop culture), it doesn’t inspire confidence on my part.

The ending also felt like an absolute cop out.  Of course the aliens are just acting in self defense, and human beings are dicks who want to destroy everything.  Again, this guy might not be writing for my demographic, but at the same time, been there, done that.

Also, I can’t help but smell me some sequel bate.  If you really want to read the book, be my guest.  Otherwise, just consider the ending of Rick and Morty season 2, minus the part where Rick goes to prison.  Earth becomes part of the galactic federation, and life is made both easier and harder at the exact same time sort of situation.

I don’t know, maybe I made the mistake of setting the bar too high this time.  Maybe I shouldn’t have read these two back to back like that. All I know is Armada was actually kind of a disappointment.  especially towards the end.

Ready Player One: My Thoughts

Virtual world fiction is probably among my least favorite subgenres of scifi-fantasy.  Dot Hack Sign was my first real exposure to the idea (back in the early 2000s when anime was all over the damn place), and I really didn’t care for it.  I just didn’t feel the same sense of urgency to anything going on.  It’s been years since I’ve seen it, but there was no real sense that anything going on in Dot Hack was relevant to anything going on in the real world.  I suppose when you’re in the game, and in the moment, slaying that evil ogre beast is the most god damn important thing ever, but video games tend to be more fun to play than to watch.  Although Game Grumps totally holds my attention.

Other works of virtual world fiction have come along, and…  Well, let’s just say it hasn’t been any better.

Sword Art On-line is probably the best modern example, and its first season was actually kind of interesting.  And it got you invested in the game itself, because if you died in the game, you died in real life.  There was urgency to complete the quest, there was commentary on how MMOs can, and sometimes DO consume your life, it had everything.  It’s just too bad they felt compelled to make a season 2 that completely underminded all the good things about season 1.  Then there was a season 3, and at that point, I was so annoyed with the show, I just flat out gave up.

There are other examples, and really, they all suck.  The idea of a virtual world just didn’t appeal to me for the longest time…  Until I heard about a man by the name of Ernest Cline.

I went in to Ready Player One expecting the worst.

“Virtual world, huh?  I’m skeptical, but I guess I got to listen to SOMETHING while waiting for Second Hand Souls to come out.”

“Oh god, it’s young adult.  I can’t wait to see what sort of heavy handed dystopian pseudo noir written in the present tense awaits me this time.”

“Oh great, 1980s pop culture.  Trying a little hard to cater to Generation Nostalgia, Mr. Cline?”

Really, by all accounts, I should’ve hated this book.  And yet, I enjoyed it.  From start to finish, this book was probably one of the better things I’d read in 2015.

There’s a reason to spend your entire life in a virtual world here, and surprisingly, it’s only PARTLY because by 2045, the entire planet is a fucking dump.  There’s urgency, dying in the virtual world has consequences, the characters…  Are probably the kind of people I’d have related to back when I was eighteen for sure, though replace all the 80s movies with professional wrestling trivia and nu metal.

I’ll try not to give too much away, but I will say this much: I kind of saw the reveal of H’s off-line self coming.  At At the same time, I was joking when I made that guess.  It’s amazing how often my jokes end up coming true.

The bad guys are a bit heavy handed in the sense “we wear suits and ties and work for a fortune500 company; therefore, we are evil!  Mwa-ha-ha-ha!”.  Still, this clearly wasn’t aimed at my demographic.  Maybe.  At the same time, though, Cline really knew how to make an IOI victory feel personal when it happened.  Dude finds the third key, and I actually remembered thinking “Oh shit!  Is the bad guy actually going to win?”  I’ve been reading fiction for ever now, and the only time I’ve ever thought that was when it was a horror novel, or a real depressing southern gothic sort of affair like William Faulkner.

They’re working on a film adaptation of this book at the time this was written.  While I can’t say I’m shocked, I can definitely say I was surprised.  It seemed like there were a lot of movies, music, and old TV shows to buy the rights to in order to use it.  Whatever film studio is making this is probably going to go bankrupt no matter what happens between that, and the excessive CGI that’ll most likely be included.

In a weird way, I’m more surprised somebody hasn’t tried making an actual MMO of the virtual world yet.  Call me crazy, but that just seems like good marketing gone to waste.  Hell, just clone Second Life and slap a bunch of 1980s movie posters everywhere.  You basically have the same thing then.

All and all, the virtual world subgenre is 1-4 for me.  Ready Player One is the 1, and until further notice, it’s pretty much the only good one.

STILETTO: My Thoughts

When I first dove head on into the glorious world of Audible.com, The Rook by Daniel O’Malley was one of my first purchases.  My actual first was basically three of the then four A Song of Ice and Fire novels, and my second was a handful of Christopher Moore books.  In fact, I only ever bothered with The Rook in the first place because Christopher Moore…  Said something.  I can’t remember if he was showing his support, or trying to convince his fans to leave Daniel O’Malley the hell alone over an assumed slight, or a third thing, but I figured I’d give it a look as long as everyone else was talking about it.

The first Rook novel, released either in 2011 or 2012 depending on which source you’re quoting, was actually pretty good.  I don’t remember going into it with especially high expectations, but that has less to do with any opinions of Daniel O’Malley himself, and more to do with my general philosophy of “keep your expectations low, and you’re never disappointed”.  It kind of reminded me of X-men if they were less of an academy for wayward superhumans, and more of a James Bond like secret organization.  I genuinely enjoyed everything about this book.  Even if it felt like Myfanwy Thomas’ powers were weapons grade bullshit.

The first audio book was read by Susan Duerden: a woman who sounds…  Not necessarily bored, but I looked forward to character dialogue when she was reading it.  It’s been a while since I listened to book 1, but I remembered finding her to be a bit dull when reading the expositional stuff.

It’s either this exact reason, or the fact four to five years happened between books that saw to it that Duerden wasn’t called in to read book 2: STILETTO.  Instead, it’s read by…  Moira Qwirk?

Whoa whoa, hold on a minute.  You’re telling me the woman who used to blow the whistle on Nickelodeon GUTS! is reading a Daniel O’Malley novel?  In the immortal words of one Phillip J. Fry: “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!”

In hindsight, I probably shouldn’t have let my excitement get the better of me.  To her credit, Qwirk does a great job reading.  Hell, even her American accent is better than Duerden’s.  That being said, I probably should’ve started with book 1 again before bulldozing my way over to this one.  If for no other reason, then because I definitely needed a refresher course.  I’d forgotten all about Myfanwy’s estranged brother and sister, about the fact the organization is called The Checquy (which I’m assured by two different readers is pronounced CHEH-KAY), and a couple other characters from the first book.  Gestalt and Dr. Krisp were literally the only other Checquy members I could remember off the top of my head.

When I first started reading STILETTO, I was actually beginning to think we’d moved on from Myfanwy Thomas completely, and instead, we’d be focusing entirely on Felicity.  To a large extent, I wasn’t wrong, but Myfanwy ended up playing more of a roll in the story than I would’ve guessed.  I mean sure, she’s a key member in negociations and all, but I figured she’d only make a couple cameos at most.

Oh yeah, there’s probably spoilers in this review.

Honestly, the title STILETTO kind of confused me.  I figured it had to do with the grafter girl with the spikes that came out of her wrist.  I want to say tarkata style, but the tarkata race doesn’t have venom in their blades, so it’s probably not an accurate comparison.  I figured it might be the code name the villain used, or even one of the Checquy.  In the end, the only reason I can think of for the title is pure symbolism during Felicity’s ending monologue about grafter girl’s involvement in the partnership between The Chequy and the grafters.

Overall, the story was a bit of a slow start.  There was a lot of history to get through revolving around how the grafters went from superpower, to vanquished, to secret brotherhood, to terrorist organization, and finally to the fractured organization it has become as of book 2.  Not to mention Felicity’s back story, catching up the halfwhits who decided to skip book 1 entirely on who the hell Myfanwy Thomas is (I guess I kind of qualify?), etc.  Not to mention the Asian girl who could turn into smoke ends up getting killed off pretty early on, which sucks, because I kind of liked her superpower.  If I could have a superpower, turning into smoke, or mist, or something along those lines would definitely be number two on my list.  Sorry, but shapeshifter just holds too much appeal for me.

The man I came to know as “The Crystal Spike Killer” was, in all honesty, a complete and total waste of time.  At first, I thought he was going to have more involvement in the story.  Hell, at first, I thought HE was Stiletto!  He has a grand total of one encounter with Myfanwy, then you don’t hear from him ever again until the epilogue.  Then, he gets dispatched in rather anticlimactic fashion by a minor character from book 1.  I was actually kind of annoyed by that.  Okay, maybe he wasn’t going to be the final big bad, but at least make him a little more important to the plot than just some excuse to pad out the chapter count to 50.

Crystal Spike Killer aside, though, I enjoyed this book.  As I said before, Moira Qwirk is an excellent reader, and a refreshing departure from Susan Duerden.  It was a long hike, but aside from a couple of head-scratcher moments like “Why is this guy even in this fucking story?”, I enjoyed it.

Is STILETTO better than the first book?  I don’t think I’d go that far.  I’d say it’s maintaining the status quo of excellence more than anything else.  I’d recommend you give it a read, but I also recommend reading book 1 first.  This isn’t exactly The Dresdin Files, after all.